UK audio-visual distribution specialist HD Connectivity was an early advocate of HDBaseT, the new multi-signal networking technology. Its wincingly-expensive HDanywhere 4x4 Multiroom+ system was released last year, and now its latest wizard wheeze is the altogether more affordable HDanywhere 4x2 Hybrid matrix.
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This brings what was a tool of the posh custom install crowd squarely into get-your-hands-dirty territory for the first time. For £500 you get a HDMI matrix switcher and a single Multiroom+ receiver.
For those not yet up to speed, HDBaseT can simultaneously carry high-definition video, multi-channel audio, network data, power (up to 100W) and control data via a single wire.
Boasting a bandwidth of 10.2Gbps, it can handle uncompressed HD video and audio, is 3D-ready and even theoretically compatible with 4K Ultra HD (although unsurprisingly we haven’t tested that). In short, it’s just what you need for a relatively future-proof home entertainment network.
The Hybrid receiver is certainly well made. It has a pressed aluminum chassis, with fins that can be used to secure it to racking or perhaps the wall behind your TV.
To the rear are four HDMI inputs and one HDMI out, along with an HDBT RJ45 output to feed a separate receiver in a remote location. Network cable, either Cat 5e or Cat 6, is effective up to 100m, which for most homes is going to be fine.
There’s also a phono stereo audio feed and an optical digital audio output on the main unit, plus a 100Base-T Ethernet loop-through.
The latter enables a network connection to travel the same HDBT route as your AV, and this can then be poured out from the receiver into a Smart TV, games console or other internet doohickey. IR blaster inputs are available to each source.
The Multiroom+ receiver is a smaller affair, sporting a single HDBT connection, plus HDMI and Ethernet outputs. No local power supply is required, as it draws juice down the line.
HDanywhere 4x2 HDBaseT Hybrid Matrix: Setup and use
The system doesn’t take long to get up and running – although fine tuning the configuration can take hours if you have to massage handshaking and EDID (Extended display identification data) issues. By incorporating HDMI into the system, there’s potential for DRM digital restrictions to throw spanners into the distribution works as we discovered.
To get started, simply connect your source(s) to the matrix, run network cable to the receiver and then hook that up by HDMI to the secondary display. When powered up, the units handshake and you’re good to go.
The front panel of the matrix allows you to cycle through sources for both the HDMI output and the HDBaseT channel to the extender, while a simplistic remote also allows you to direct the inputs to each output. The system supports CEC control.
The overall performance of the system is excellent. The transmission process doesn’t compromise the image quality of any selected feed, and there is only a minor transmission lag.
The piggybacked networking also works a treat, proving ideal for bringing a wired internet connection to a remote smart TV.
That said, we did experience the occasional oddity. An older Pioneer Kuro plasma induced a few headaches, as the Hybrid box was unable to handshake because of HDCP issues, resulting in a sporadic green screen. It seems if your display is of a certain vintage, you may well come unstuck.